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NORTH YARMOUTH — The Board of Selectmen has unanimously accepted possession of the town’s school, due to be closed in June, and approved a septic study for the property.
The School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors voted last December to transfer North Yarmouth Memorial School to the town after the school is closed. The district will turn the property over to North Yarmouth by June 30, the end of its current fiscal year.
Selectmen opted last month to spend up to $2,500 from a contingency account for a land use density study of the school property, to determine the maximum future use of the 26-acre site.
The panel also voted 4-1 on Feb. 4, with Selectman Paul Napolitano opposed, to spend up to $4,000 for a study of the property’s septic system, to determine its condition and capacity for future use. Funding will come from the board’s miscellaneous planning expenditure line.
Selectman Mark Girard said the study is “a scientific analysis of the size of the land, the nature of the soil, the governing codes and requirements and design criteria, and saying, ‘applying all those standards to this piece of ground, it’s likely that you would be able to do X, Y, or Z.’ It’s not recommending that it should be done or shouldn’t be done, it’s just saying, ‘is it possible.'”
He also expressed his encouragement that the town will have a strong basis on which to make “not only determinations of what our options are, but also what the impact of those options might be from a tax basis, from a (tax increment financing) basis. “I think it’s going to be a very good platform that we can use for quite some time.”
“Exciting times are ahead of us,” Steve Palmer, chairman of the board, responded.
Napolitano agreed that the septic system required studying, but said he thinks the town can accomplish the same thing, instead of pumping sewerage, by expanding town water.
“If you look at the Village District area, the land that’s going to be available, a good part of that land is on good soils, and I don’t understand why you would want to pump sewerage off that site to (the) school, when you could design a septic system on the soil that’s already there,” he said.
The School Board voted in December 2012 to close the 38-year-old school building. A Cumberland-North Yarmouth referendum last June affirmed that decision. The school’s fourth and fifth grades will move to an expanded Greely Middle School in Cumberland.
The town must decide whether it will keep or sell the school, and whether it will keep the entire building, and use it for community or town office space. The town could also decide to retain only part of the school, such as the gym, and have another organization occupy the rest of the building.
A senior housing facility is one use that has been suggested for the school, but a land use ordinance change would be required to facilitate that use, Interim Town Manager Marnie Diffin has said.
The North Yarmouth Economic Development and Sustainability Committee presented the board in December 2013 with a multi-part recommendation for developing municipal properties in the town center, a concept that had to be revised in the wake of the blaze that destroyed Wescustogo Hall four months before.
Among other suggestions, the committee calls for the town to partner with a developer to redevelop NYMS “as either elderly housing or a co-working/office sharing site,” according to a document the panel submitted to the town.
“As part of this effort, (the town would) preserve rights to public spaces on the Memorial School parcel, such as the baseball field,” the document states. “As we discuss options with the developer, we can determine whether the Town can preserve certain uses to the interior of the Memorial School building, such as the gymnasium.”